Lately I’ve felt like I haven’t really been contributing much to the cause. I find myself in more of a background role, itching to get started again on a new Parkinson’s project.
Emily and I went up to Morristown, N.J., recently for a friend’s fundraiser, and I was telling Stephanie, from the Michael J. Fox Foundation how I was feeling. She reminded me that in supporting those people and getting others involved in the cause, I’m still doing something amazing.
The next week, I really got to see this in action at the Philadelphia Marathon. And I’m so grateful.
Recently, I had the absolute honor to be a panelist at the Partner’s in Parkinson’s event in Philadelphia.
What’s Partners in Parkinson’s? It’s a newish initiave from the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Abbvie to help Parkinson’s patients get the full benefit of a team when it comes to their journey. What’s that mean? Well, you can attend events to learn more about how you can help and about PD in general. Or you could find a new specialist. Or you could get one-on-one support from an advocate.
It’s a really cool tool that I’ve personally be able to use to get someone help finding a doctor in New York from right here in York, Pa.
The Foundation asked me to come out to Philly to be the “adult child” of a person with Parkinson’s on a panel called “Building Connections with Family, Friends and Community.” The goal? To share my story and help these people find ways to get involved or get more information. Most of the people in attendance were either recently diagnosed or have recently decided to get involved.
We had a conference call to prep for the panel, but in the end, we were told to be ourselves (they know better!) and share our stories. Simple enough, right? Well, I got a little nervous on the way.
A few years ago on my mother’s birthday, she found one of her long-lost childhood friends on Facebook. Needless to say, she was really, really excited.
So imagine just how excited she got when that friend and her husband ended up moving about 40 minutes away. Since then, Mom and Dad have spent a lot of time with Desiré and her husband, Jack.
That lifelong friendship took another huge step forward recently when Jack announced he would be doing the Tri Rock Triathlon in Clearwater for Team Fox in my dad’s honor. Talk about friendship, right? Jack also had an uncle who battled Parkinson’s.
My name is Jack Foard. My good friend Bob Harmon has Parkinson’s.
Since his diagnosis some years ago Bob has given everything he has to do battle with the disease, but not just for himself, he has been fighting for every single person and every single family afflicted by the disease. In my own family, a dear uncle, Ted Bell lost the fight a few years back.
Bob has raised ten’s of thousands of dollars for Team Fox, funding worldwide Parkinson’s research. As the hundreds of people Bob has personally helped deal with the disease will tell you, Bob lives a full life made fuller by focusing on others.
Today I am focusing on Bob. I’m pulling my 67 year old body into shape to finish this sprint triathalon hoping that folks like you, folks who want to win the race against Parkinson’s will give a few bucks in Bob’s honor (or in honor of a loved one.)
I’m swimming, biking and running (walking actually) to honor Bob Harmon and the selfless way he has helped anyone and everyone touched by this cruel disease. And for Uncle Ted, a dear man and a fine athlete in his day. And for you and your loved ones too. The dollars you pledge today will be responsible for the improved treatments of tomorrow and someday the cure. Thank you so much for taking the time to make a pledge now.
Dad, Mom and Emily will be there as Jack raises money for his uncle, my dad, and all of you fighting this cause with us.
In 2006, at the age of 57, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic, progressive, neurological
disease. That year I retired to enjoy the fruits of over 40 years of work. Like all people who receive life-changing news, I was devastated, but I was fortunate that I had a wise wife. Cecily reacted to the news
in an unexpected way. Her response was “Thank God it is not something that is going to kill you in 90 days. We can deal with this.”
Retirement offered many opportunities to do things you really never had done before. One of those was golf. I had played golf on a very sporadic basis during my life, but not in a way to have a golf swing.
Over the years my game has improved, but I knew that I would only be a mid-handicap player due to rigidity, a major symptom of Parkinson’s, and the hourly fluctuation of symptoms caused by the short efficacy of the medications. Despite the challenges, golf along with other exercise seemed to slow the progression of the disease.
It is every golfer’s dream to make a hole in one. So on May 6, 2013, I was ecstatic to achieve that dream. Of course I celebrated and then went back to playing golf. I was different then before because now I knew I could make a hole in one on any par 3, because I had done it. Being an optimist didn’t hurt either.
On September 14, 2014, I was fortunate to make my second hole in one. Again it was a time for celebration. Both holes in one were made on my home two courses at Lake Ashton, but they were on separate courses.
Eight days later on September 22nd we reached the first par 3, my golfing partners were giving me a hard time about since I had gotten a hole in one the week before, why don’t you just do it again. Laughing I stepped up to the ball and hit it. To my surprise it was a good shot, and to our surprise it went in the hole.
Two holes in one in eight days.
The odds of that happening are astronomical, even for a player who doesn’t have Parkinson’s.
I reflected on the accomplishment and tried to put in context. I have spent the last eight years living with Parkinson’s and preaching to all that will listen to keep active, positive and fight the fight. You never know what you can accomplish when you try.
Maybe next Monday they will find a cure for Parkinson’s.
Many of the people I know in the Parkinson’s community have this go-to attitude and optimism that a lot of people would find surprising. To me, it’s par for the course. We’ve been introduced to so many people who aren’t going to wait for a cure, they’re going to help find it. And with that, comes a willingness to bravely look PD in the face with a smile.
That said, I would guess that many of them struggle with bouts of depression. A lot of us do, whether we have PD or not. I’ve been having similar conversations with friends lately as they struggle, too, with the fact that they are the people others rely on to help build them up and make them smile. Those people sometimes don’t feel like they have anyone else to talk to. If you’re the one who needs to make others laugh and look at the bright side, it’s hard to admit you have your own demons.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot since the news of Robin Williams’ death. Yes, he was a funny, funny man. But I honestly wasn’t surprised that behind that depression was lurking. A lot of people jumped on the bandwagon to blame his Parkinson’s diagnosis on his depression. His wife had said she wasn’t ready to tell people yet.
I don’t like writing about myself, but here’s the MJFF Fox Trial Finder blog about … me.
I used to think that the feeling that I wasn’t doing enough in the fight against Parkinson’s disease was just a neurosis of mine. As the daughter of a person with Parkinson’s, I help my dad with his annual golf tournament. I write for The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s FoxFeed blog, and run our family blog telling the stories of people with Parkinson’s. But I’m always plagued by this feeling that I should be somewhere else, doing more.
It’s a feeling I’ve come to realize isn’t just something I struggle with. Many of my Team Fox brothers and sisters (and my actual sister, Emily), are always willing and ready for the next thing we can do to help. When Fox Trial Finder, the Foundation’s online clinical trials matching tool launched, my entire family signed up. My mother has been enrolled in the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiativeclinical study looking for biomarkers for three years. And alerts from Fox Trial Finder would pop up in my email when new trials I was a good fit for were ready for volunteers. But I had a hard time finding something that fit. I would get dissuaded by the length of some trials, since I can’t be sure I’ll be living in this area for 5-7 years.
We started off the month with the whole family gathering for the 5th Annual Golf for the Cure. For those who remember last year where everyone told me “You did to much,” I made a pledge that I would get more help this year. Well, I lived up to that pledge and was fully recovered two days after the tournament. Thanks to all who helped me carry the load especially my family.
The event once again showed the generosity of the Lake Ashton community. We raised over $47,000 this year, which brings our five year total to over $200,000 (including matches through the Michael J Fox Foundation). The event also had a few surprises for Bob (I hate surprises). Since the event coincided with the MJFF MVP dinner, which we were unable to attend, and members of the foundation were unable to come to our event. Hence the surprise, we received a two-part video with Stephanie Paddock from the foundation and Michael J Fox with a personal message for our community and my family. Due to a production glitch, Emily’s name was left out. When the family told me of the problem the night before two things happened. The foundation went out of their way to send a letter to Em and a picture from Michael thanking her during MVP. But the best thing that happened was Emily’s immediate response. She said: “Dad this isn’t about me, it’s about finding a cure.” Boy, does she get it or what.
So, thank you again to all those who helped us, all of the donors, and to the Lake Ashton community, you are part of the effort to Find the Cure. Thank you Emily for reminding me of the lessons we have previously learned.